The Pisco Kid And another new egg white substitute for cocktails!

The Pisco Kid Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf you’re visiting Los Angeles, or happen to already be a resident, and want to find a bar with a decent jukebox, I have a few I can recommend. There’s my beloved Tonga Hut in the Valley, The HMS Bounty in Koreatown, and then there’s Footsie’s over in Highland Park. I’m sure there are some more bars out there that have a great jukebox selection but these are my go-to’s. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments.

The Pisco Kid Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI always have my favorite songs and will seriously put on $20 worth of music; alright, alright, I’m a total jukebox hog. Footsie’s in particular I always start with the Cisco Kid by War. I have no idea why, I just like to start my set off with that. I heard that song out of the blue the other day and have been reminiscing about jukebox playlists ever since. That song is also probably why I’ve created this cocktail.

The Pisco Kid Cocktail // stirandstrain.comYou’ve read on here before my thoughts on pisco- it’s a versatile mixing spirit that I don’t think gets enough credit. I’ve also used the base recipe for a pisco sour to show you how you can use BEER! as an egg white replacement. Today I’m riffing on that theme again, making a cocktail that calls for egg whites without eggs. But this time we’ve got a fun new ingredient to play with: Instafoam!

The Pisco Kid Cocktail // stirandstrain.comYou might not be a vegan but you might be someone who cringes at the thought of an egg white in a cocktail. Even though most bars are either using pasteurized egg whites or eggs from their own back yard chickens (I’m sure that’s a thing) to prevent salmonella from entering your cocktail. Still, I get it, you don’t want to drink the egg whites. So now you can give Instafoam a try. But won’t it just make the cocktail taste all chemically? NO! I know way back in the dark days when there was only Fee Foam you were going to get a weird aftertaste (and I’m not knocking on Fee Brothers, they were a beacon of bitters in a world that didn’t understand the need yet.) but here you just taste the cocktail.

So now you’ve got THREE replacements for egg whites in cocktails to either make your drink vegan, or just to avoid raw eggs: beer, aquafaba and Instafoam. OK, now onto the actual cocktail recipe.

The Pisco Kid Cocktail // stirandstrain.comYes, this is a riff on pisco sour cocktail. We’ve got the usual culprits: pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, bitters. However, we’ve spiced it up a bit with the addition of jalapeño jam. I often add marmalade or something of the sort to a whiskey sour just to give it an extra layer of flavor. Here it does the same with a spicy, slightly sweet bite with just a bit of earthy aftertaste from those peppers.

Note: if your jam is more on the solid side, you’ll want to break it up first in the shaker with a muddler to hasten the shaking time and to make sure it gets well incorporated into the drink.

2 dashes Instafoam
2 ounces pisco, Encanto used here
1 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon jalapeño jam
1/2 ounce simple syrup
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters

In the bottom of a shaker, add your Instafoam first. Then pour in pisco, lime juice, jalapeño jam (see note above) and simple syrup. Fill ice 2/3 up shaker. Shake hard for about 20 seconds and strain into a rocks glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Several years ago, when I was still working at a 9 to 5 job, I flew into Chicago for a boring conference. This was one of those conferences that not only had a floor devoted to awkward introductions and sweaty handshakes, but hours and hours of mandatory workshops. After 4 days I was exhausted in every way, but, thankfully I lopped on an extra day for sightseeing—I had never been to Chicago before.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comRight before I had left for the trip a coworker, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, told me I should check out the miniatures over at the Art Institute. I didn’t have time to do any research about what I’d find there prior to leaving, so it was going to be a surprise. I ended up booking a hotel about two blocks from the AI and since I am always keen to check out some art (I got that BA in art history you know…) I decided that I’d take some “me” time and stroll on over there. And it was AMAZING.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comGuys, I have a secret to tell you all: I LOVE manufactured environments. Disneyland, Vegas, countless restored houses in New England I frequented as a child, and these tiny miniature rooms…  This might be why I chose to make dioramas for all my book reports when that was an option (see list here). I’m sure someone out there could psychoanalyze why but who cares?

Today I’m taking that idea of the small, magical environment and turning it towards cocktails. Recently I stumbled upon these really unique cocktail glasses made by Czech designer Martin Jakobsen and it was love at first sight. The shapes and stylings had the gears in my brain turning at high speed: what to make first?

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comI loved how these looked like terrariums and my mind wandered towards air plants and sea grasses. And cucumbers. Not sea cucumbers mind you, but just the regular guys you see at the market. I had recently received a bottle of Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur and had developed a recipe using shiso and coconut milk. The dreamy liquid seemed to me the perfect base to display inside the globular glass and using the green elements from the drink, I could create my own little world in a cocktail.

The cucumber liqueur has a perfectly light and sweet taste that married well with the coconut milk. Together they create a slightly creamy cocktail with a tart, floral and subtle cucumber flavor. I chose a pinch of hibiscus salt for balance in the finish. The hibiscus gives another layer of floral to the nose and just a touch of bitterness. To make the sea grass garnish in the globe, I dehydrated cucumber peels at 200°F for 15 minutes in the oven. The effect is purely aesthetic but I do love the smell of dried cucumber too.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comAnd guys, you don’t need these little globe cocktail glasses to make the drink. A double rocks glass will do just fine too.

Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits are right up my alley. They use all natural, sustainably farmed, organic ingredients all made in small batches by people—not machines. I invite you to check out their Cucumber Liqueur and their entire product line at thatchersorganic.com.

Now let’s get shaking!

1-1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur
2 shiso leaves
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
3/4 ounce coconut milk
Hibiscus salt and cucumber slices for garnish

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle the shiso leaves with lime juice. Add in ice 2/3 up the shaker and then pour in the vodka, Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur, simple syrup and coconut leaves. Shake hard for 20 seconds and double strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with cucumber slices and hibiscus salt.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

*For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Harissa Explains It All a sweet and spicy #PerfectMargarita with Patrón Tequila

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Patrón Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

If one tv show summed up my preadolescent life, it would be Clarissa Explains It All. God I loved that show. I could probably attribute it to making me even more of a quirky kid; the clothes, the chili pepper lights around the window, a boy for a best friend, the “I don’t care about fitting in” messages. Clarissa was a strong willed, independent female that, myself being the eldest sister in the family, I could look up to for inspiration.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comOk Elana but what does this story have to do with Margaritas?

Well, everything. Ok, well not everything but that quirky spirit instilled in me at that young age still abounds and often finds its way into my life in all sorts of ways. Maybe you’ve noticed on this site that I get a little quirky from time to time? Today we’re getting a little quirky with some margaritas and a tube of harissa paste.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comThere is nothing wrong with the classic margarita. I love them. I love that there is a day devoted to them, even if it falls in February (?!). But I get bored of the same old same old and I never can leave good enough alone. I am always on the lookout for my #PerfectMargarita.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comI’ve always been a big fan of having a little savory along with my sweet, and Patrón’s Silver tequila is a lovely base for doing just that. Patrón Silver has a slightly citrus and peppery flavor profile that is smooth enough to mix into a great tasting margarita.  My sweet element comes from ripe Champagne mangoes. Their juicy nectar cuts down on added sweetener but also gives a subtle tart bite that some freshly squeezed lime juice highlights. I’ve finished this off today with a touch of chili salt to remind the palate that they’re in for some SPICE before they even taste the first sip.Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.com

Ready to get quirky? Let’s get mixing.

2 ounces Patrón Silver tequila*
4 1/2″ cubes mango, Champagne variety used here
1/4 barspoon harissa paste (more or less to taste)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
chili salt for rim (like Tajín or similar)
lime peel for garnish

  • In the bottom of a shaker tin, muddle the mangoes with the harissa and lime juice until broken down. Add in the tequila and simple syrup and fill the shaker 2/3 with ice. Shake until chilled about 20 seconds. Rim a rocks glass with the chili salt by dipping the edge in lime juice then the salt. Add in a single large ice cube. Strain into the rocks glass and garnish with the lime peel.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comRight now THIS is my #PerfectMargarita. Tell me all about yours!


And if you’d love to have a few options for Cinco de Mayo this year, check out the winning cocktail from Patrón’s Margarita of the Year contest. This contest began on National Margarita Day (of course), and featured margaritas made in 7 categories: herbal, spicy, smoky, savory, modern, tropical and classic.

Over 50,000 votes were cast (including a vote from the one and only cocktail historian David Wondrich) and the Rosa Picante Margarita was IT; so you know it’s going to be good. Bartender Jordan Corney from San Antonio, TX was inspired by the classic margarita and the El Diablo, two of his favorite cocktails, and adding the modern component of jalapeño oil to impart texture and complexity to the drink. And check out this pretty sexy cocktail video of Jordan making the drink and talking about what inspired him to create it (it makes me want one RIGHT NOW).

Rosa Picante Margarita

Created by Jordan Corney, Bohanan’s (San Antonio, TX)

2 oz Patrón Silver
.5 oz Patrón Citrónge Lime
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
.5 oz ginger syrup
Bar spoon jalapeño oil
Dash rosewater
Rose petal sea salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe that has been half-rimmed with rose sea salt, and top with a dash of rose water. Garnish with a rose petal, if available.

For more information about Patrón Tequilas and liqueurs, please visit patrontequila.com.

*For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Gift Guide: Giddy Up! (Kentucky Derby Time!)

One week from tomorrow it’s OK to carry around a riding crop and wear a helmut in public. Be prepared. Get bourbon.

Gift Guide: Kentucky Derby 2016 // stirandstrain.com

Leave those tiny silver cups at home, we’re feeding a crowd. And by feeding I mean drinking a giant silver punch bowl filled with Mint Juleps. So get your Maker’s Mark, and a commercial ice crusher, and if you have the time, grow some mint! Or, you could just fake it and add in some mint simple instead. Stir it all up with some wild horses, and please, gentlemen, use a napkin.

1. Feeling giddy napkin 2. Grow your own mint plants 3. Triple Crown Napkins 4. Gold Horse Drink Stirrers 5. Maker’s Mark Bourbon American Pharoah Commemorative Bottle (available May 1st!) 6. Mint Julep Simple Syrup 7. Commerical Ice Crusher 8. Silver Vintage Punch Bowl

Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz with the magic of Aquafaba

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comHey guys! I wrote a long, “science” laden post all about aquafaba over here and this post is where I’m sticking the recipe for properly making the cocktail. But for the short version, aquafaba is the cooking liquid from beans like chickpeas (or any neutral tasting legume) that is used in place of egg whites. Hence, a vegan cocktail (unless your bourbon is fat washed or you cooked your beans in chicken stock)!

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comNote: if you want to make this with an egg white, you can do a 1:1 substitution for the aquafaba. It just won’t be vegan anymore. 

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.com1-3/4 ounce sloe gin, I used Spirit Works Distillery*
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 ounce aquafaba, see note above
2 ounces chilled club soda, Q-Club used here

In a shaker, combine sloe gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and squafaba. Dry shake with 1 ice cube until very frothy (I find this takes anywhere from 15 -30 seconds). Then add ice until shaker is 2/3 full. Shake again to combine and chill for about 20 seconds. Strain into a highball glass and add club soda.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with Melon, Pimm’s and Crystalized Ginger One SPICY cocktail!

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comFor about the last month or so you guys may have noticed I’ve been promoting a contest by Tarantas Wines where I’ll be judging all of the wine-based cocktails. I feel that sometimes saying “wine-based” for cocktails confuses people, like, they only imagine taking the wine and mixing it with club soda and maybe adding a mint leaf to it. Or, in one kinda sad case online I recently saw some wine cocktails that were just a bottle of wine blended with a basket of strawberries and ice. It looked pretty in the picture, but I wouldn’t warrant it an innovative cocktail.

I’l take a step back here though and not get on the soapbox about what IS and ISN’T a cocktail, because quite frankly that’s not a debate I want to get into. (Although, side-note, according to David Wondrich the first usage of the term cocktail has to do with horses and ginger placed in their, um, well, butts to make their tails perk up.)

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comSo let’s talk about how I like to make wine cocktails, or rather, since the weather is getting HOT again in my neighborhood, wine slushie cocktails. I don’t bat an eyelash over frozen cocktails as evidenced here here and here. In fact, book publishers- if you want a cocktail book on this subject, go ahead and contact me; I’m taking meetings.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comThe wine I’ve chosen as my base is Tarantas Monastrell, an inky, tart and not-too-sweet red from the Jumilla region of Spain. Because it’s so dry, I added in some sweetness with honeydew melon and Pimm’s No. 1. The Pimm’s also adds in some spices and subtle earthy flavors. I wanted to finish this on a spicy note so in went crystalized ginger. (You can get crystalized ginger in a speciality grocer, online, or can make your own too.) I wanted to add a touch more sweetness and have some of the ginger chunks actually present in the drink- think of them as your chewy spice bombs. Otherwise I could have gone with fresh ginger infused in some capacity.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comTo minimize watering the drink down with ice, I pre-freeze the mixture the night before. Because there is a low alcohol content, the mixture actually becomes solid overnight but not completely frozen. This way I can add the pre-frozen mixture directly into the blender and only add ice to it as needed. Yes, it’s an additional step that requires some thought beforehand, but it makes for a better frozen drink. If you don’t have the time to freeze overnight, you should at least chill the mixture a few hours beforehand, and if you need this IMMEDIATELY, then go ahead and throw it into the blender with crushed ice, just taste and adjust as you go.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

The overnight mixture makes for a refreshing and light cocktail. You get honeyed ginger flavors with subtle spice and some grassiness; overall it’s quite balanced. If you like your drinks even spicer, I’d up the ginger by another tablespoon, it gets quite zingy.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

15 ounces honey dew melon (about half a melon), chopped into 1/2″ pieces
36 g or 1.2 ounces (about a quarter cup) chopped Crystalized ginger
2 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ration)
4 ounces of Pimm’s No. 1
8 ounces Tarantas Monastrell wine*
crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals for garnish

  • The night before, combine the honeydew melon, crystalized ginger, simple syrup, Pimm’s No. 1 and the Tarantas Monastrell wine into a gallon size ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.
  • When ready to make the cocktails, add pre-frozen mixture to a blender and blend to desired consistency (should be smooth, not too chunky). Add ice as needed.
  • To serve, pour into double rocks glasses and garnish with crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals.

Remember, you have until THIS FRIDAY to enter your own wine-based cocktail on the Tarantas website! Happy Wine Wednesday everyone!

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Illustrations by Robin N. Watts

After what seems like years debating about the livelihood of this random tree that lives in front of our house, we finally went and had a professional diagnosis its current state. It’s confirmed: that tree is indeed diseased and dead. You’d think it would be easy to spot a dead tree, but it’s not. They look surprisingly lifelike well after they’ve ceased to be a living tree. So we had it removed along with the two lavender bushes you’ve seen star in a few drinks around here. They were also dead; we can all blame this California drought (and not my poor gardening skills).

So now we have the exciting decision to make regarding what to plant in the empty spaces. While I should be thinking cactus plants and other plants that require little water, what I really want are some fruit trees out front. And what I most want are some passion fruit trees.

Not only would I have fresh passion fruits five feet from my doorstep, but I would also have those amazing blooms that come with the trees. Have you guys ever seen one? They’re like a gaudy space alien in technicolor. I need these in my life.

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf I had these trees and their fruit readily available, THIS cocktail would be the go-to cocktail around my house. Highlighting the passion fruit but balancing it out with a little sweet Meyer lemon juice and, of course, an egg white. When I developed this recipe, I was using 10 Cane Rum for the base. And then it got discontinued and I’m lamenting the fact I used up my last bottle before I found this out. Another good option is Caña Brava by the 86 Co. Or, you know, use what you like.

If I’m going to plant some passion fruit trees, I guess I’d also need a Meyer lemon tree. And a lime tree. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s hope I can keep this one alive first.

1-1/2 ounces rum, such as Caña Brava
3/4 ounce fresh passion fruit pulp
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 egg white

  • In a shaker, add rum, passion fruit pulp, simple syrup, meyer lemon juice and egg white. Dry shake, hard, for 20 seconds to get a good froth. Add ice ⅔ up shaker. Shake an additional 20 second and double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Tasting notes: bright, low acidity, silky mouthfeel, passion fruit forward.

Fans of our Wine Wine Wine posts will recognize Robin N. Watts as the man behind all of our wine picks. Besides a lover of wine, Robin also is a damn fine illustrator. Find more about his illustration works at robinnwatts.tumblr.com.

Tropical Rum Peach Frozen Blended Cocktail frozen peach cocktails part two

Frozen Peach, Rum, Coconut Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSee? I told you more ways were coming to use up all of your last summer peaches!

So this weekend would mark the last weekend before Fall official starts and while that’s laughable here in Southern California, what with our week of 100° temps, I do want to start transitioning into Fall flavors. But first, we’ll leave summer with a tropical BANG. A bang with rum and cinnamon and coconut and more peaches.Frozen Peach, Rum, Coconut Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And more rum, because we’re calling it tropical.

You know guys, if we’re all thinking ahead. Maybe we should just freeze a bunch of peach slices, and then in a few months when we’re complaining about the cold, we can turn the heat up really high in the house and make a couple of these frozen peach cocktails? That sounds like a plan.

Frozen Peach, Rum, Coconut Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAnd while we’re on the subject of future endeavors, Stir and Strain will be taking a much, much needed vacation in October. A real one, unlike last year’s where I spent countless nights staying up scheduling out content and then still kept working through the break. I have to start convincing myself now that I don’t need to bring my laptop to go look at Fall foliage for two weeks.

But until then, we got a few more recipes and a couple extra special treats coming up! And now onto those cocktails…

Frozen Peach, Rum, Coconut Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comServes 4.
6 ounces white rum, such as Caña Brava
4 ounces coconut cream, such as Coco Lopez
2 ounces simple syrup
2-3 ripe peaches, pitted and cubed
8 dashes Angostura bitters
1 ounce dark rum, such as Blackwell, divided (optional)
Ground cinnamon and 4 cinnamon sticks, for garnish

  • Combine rum, coconut cream, simple syrup, and Angostura in a zipper-lock bag or resealable container. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to overnight.
  • To serve, transfer the rum mixture to a blender and add 3 cups ice. Blend at high speed until well mixed and thick, about 45 seconds. Pour into 4 highball glasses and top each with 1/4 ounce dark rum (if desired), a dash of cinnamon, and a cinnamon stick.

The fresh, ripe fruit adds a ton of intense flavor in this creamy cocktail. The spice from the Angostura, the slightly sweet coconut and all that rum make for a fresh, tropical cocktail. For an extra boozy punch, float dark rum on top with a dash of cinnamon to enhance the aroma.

Looking for a more savory blended peach cocktail? Check out the Tequila-Suze frozen peach cocktail!

Vanilla-Infused Amaretto Sour with lemon foam!

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com
This post is brought to you by Nielsen-Massey. Ideas are my own.

Is it too early to start thinking about Fall weather and cozy sweaters? Is it wrong that I may have turned my air conditioning down real low the other day and pretended it was cold outside? Please don’t judge. When Southern California gets its end-of-summer heat waves (that start around mid-August and go through October. Blech.), I start daydreaming pretty hard about being able to turn on my fireplace and snuggle up to it with something equally cozy.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Amaretto might not scream Autumn to you, in fact, it just might make you scream, but I’m a firm believer that a little amaretto now and then is good for you. Ever since I made myself an Amaretto Sour a few years back (on a quest to find things to do with this giant bottle I had acquired), I realized that I had been missing out on a flavor I really loved, and wouldn’t mind more of: almond. But then I went and had too much of a good thing and realized my go-to sour just wasn’t cutting it. What I needed was a little more warm, Fall flavors, and maybe a heaping helping of the unexpected. So in stepped Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon (my “all purpose”) vanilla beans and pure lemon extract. And a couple of N2O cartridges for good measure.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I’ve had Nielsen-Massey vanilla beans, pastes, extracts, you name it, in my pantry for over a decade now (thanks in part to my old job where I had access to the best ingredients Los Angeles chefs could get. Read why they’re a great pick here!). Today I’m excited to team up with them to bring you a cocktail using their amazing, hand picked vanilla beans.

Vanilla and almond are a great pair. I stick them in plenty of baked goods, and now I’m sticking them together in a cocktail. I’m also including an egg white, typically found in a sour, but not in your typical way.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I make no apologies on here about my love of foams in drinks. Besides looking nice, foams provide a way to suspend aromas above the drink, and also are a lovely layer to taste as well. That silky texture is your first sip before you get to the meat of the cocktail. Here, an extra boost of lemon first greets your nose before you get to the rich vanilla flecked amaretto. The foam mixes with the cocktail to cut through that richness to make the usual heavier cocktail a much lighter version.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

So now you have a fun weekend DIY and a whole week to look forward to this delicious cocktail. But… if you can’t wait a week, you can always cheat with a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste mixed into your amaretto. The flavor is not as deep as the infusion but works in a pinch!Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Vanilla-infused Amaretto

1 cup amaretto
2 Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans, cut into 1” segments

Combine the amaretto and vanilla segments in an airtight container. Shake hard for 10 seconds to release some of the seeds from the pods. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 5 days. Taste test and leave for another day or two if you want an even stronger flavor. When ready, strain pods from the amaretto leaving seeds behind in the liquid. Infusion will keep for 1 year stored in a cool, dark place.

Lemon Foam

4 ounces water
2 ounces egg whites
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey lemon extract

In a whip cream canister, add water, egg whites, simple syrup and lemon extract. Seal and charge with one N2O charger. Shake hard and charge with a second charger. Shake again and chill for at least an hour before using.

Click here to purchase the whip cream canister and the N2O chargers!

For the cocktail

2 ounces vanilla-infused amaretto
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon foam
lemon peel for garnish

In a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, add the vanilla-infused amaretto and lemon juice. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Top with about ½” of the lemon foam. Garnish with the lemon peel.

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, please visit the Nielsen-Massey website or follow Nielsen-Massey on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThings I use my grill for:

  1. grilling meat, duh
  2. cooking vegetables
  3. making pizza
  4. grilling up cocktails

Cocktails? Whaaaaa?!

Well, you’re outside on the grill anyways during the summer, might as well put it to some good use in the drink department. And if you’ve been on here before, every summer now I sort through the seasonal (and maybe not so seasonal) fruits and see what happens when you char them up. Like mangoes. And nectarines, limes and cherries. But especially cherries (so much so I made some for Kristin at DineXDesign too). Sometimes though, you run out of fruit to grill, and you unearth something from the depths of your pantry. And then the science experiments start and that’s where you can really have some fun.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo, admittedly, I bought this can before I left my day job which was over a year and a half ago. How long I bought it before I left that job is a total mystery. But every so often I would open my pantry, stick my head in, notice this can of rambutans, squint at it like it’s going to tell me what to do with it, and then leave it there for another day. That is, until a few days ago.Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I had promised to make a pitcher of cocktails for some friends coming over but in my usual fashion of late, left it to the night before. And because the fruit from the farmer’s market has been so good lately, I had eaten all of it. With a sad, empty fruit bowl staring at me, wagging its imaginary banana finger, I suddenly realized now might be a good time to crack open those rambutans (which, for the record, I can’t help but sing as “bam-a-lam” from that Black Betty song).

I tasted one, a little crunchy with a sweet-tart taste similar to a grape; it could only get better with some grill time. And it did. The richer flavors that developed turned out to be a just the ingredient to pair with some tequila, grapefruit and lime juice. And smoked salt. Always with the smoked salt.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf you’re not in possession of a grill, no worries! You can make this on a grill pan or under the broiler too.

Makes 4 cocktails
12 rambutans, peeled and seed removed if fresh (canned rambutans come ready to eat and are available online here)
6 ounces blanco tequila
2 ounces fresh juice from 1 white grapefruit
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 limes
1 ounce simple syrup
Smoked sea salt and lime juice for rimming

  1. If using the grill: Soak 3 wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place 4 rambutans on each skewer, and grill over high heat until char lines appear and fruit has softened slightly but still holds its shape, about 1 minute per side. Let cool and remove from skewers until ready to use.
  2. If using the broiler: Adjust rack to 4 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place rambutans on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil until softened and lightly charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes total. Let cool and remove from skewers.
  3. In the bottom of a small pitcher, muddle the rambutans to release juices and break up the fruit. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Cover and chill for at least an hour up to overnight.
  4. To serve, add lime juice to a saucer and smoked salt to another. Dip the side of 4 rocks glasses in lime juice and then gently roll the outside edge in smoked salt. Add ice to each glass and strain the cocktail, dividing equally among the glasses.

The slightly nutty flavors pair wonderfully with tequila, while fresh lime and grapefruit juice highlight the floral and tart elements of the rambutan. A touch of simple syrup is not enough to make the whole concoction sweet; instead, it helps round out the flavor and brighten the mix.

***This recipe originally was written for Serious Eats.